Tim Berners-Lee has called for a digital bill of rights.
Last Sunday, the Liberal Democrats passed the following motion (amendment indicated by change of typeface) at their spring conference in York, in spite of some resistance by Martin Horwood over the lines relating to the collection of bulk data. (Martin Horwood is the MP for Cheltenham and therefore for GCHQ, and both his parents worked for the security services.) :
F19 A Digital Bill of Rights
Mover: Tim Farron MP
Summation: Dr Julian Huppert MP (Co-Chair, Parliamentary Party Committee on
Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities)
i) Monitoring or surveilling people without suspicion is alien to our
traditional British values.
ii) That systematic surveillance of people's communications and online
activities undermines a number of fundamental human rights, including
the right to respect of private life and correspondence, freedom of
expression, of association, of conscience and of religion; that these
rights are essential in safeguarding the democratic principles of our
society; and that any interference with these rights must be necessary
iii) That our online communication and behaviour should be treated with
the same respect and legal due process that we expect for our offline
communication and behaviour.
iv) That the internet has the power to liberate, to educate, to bring people
closer together, and to boost our economy; and that such potential will be
undermined by government control, surveillance and censorship.
v) That the indiscriminate harvesting and storage of the communications
and metadata of people without suspicion is incompatible with our
liberal and democratic principles, and has the potential to cast a chilling
effect on free speech and free association.
vi) Whilst there are legitimate concerns surrounding national security, such
concerns must not be invoked simply as a pretext to undertake blanket
surveillance, stifle investigative journalism, or discourage public debate.
vii) That the work of the intelligence and security services is essential to the
underpinning of a free, fair and open society, and that clear public
agreement as to their remit and the extent of their powers would be to
their benefit as well the country more broadly.
A. The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to
Communications Surveillance, which emphasise that any surveillance of
citizens by the state must be necessary and proportionate.
B. The United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Right to Privacy
in the Digital Age (A/C.3/68/L.45), emphasising that the same rights that
citizens have offline must also be protected online.
C. The Reform Government Surveillance Principles signed by Apple,
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL, which
call for overhaul of the oversight, accountability and laws governing
government surveillance programmes in order to restore the balance
between security and liberty and to restore public trust in the internet.
D. Existing Liberal Democrat policy that data belongs by default to the
individual to whom it refers; this ownership of data means that the
individual citizen has a right to access all their own data and, where
reasonable, can decide who else has access.
E. The Deputy Prime Minister's decision to veto the unworkable and
disproportionate Communications Data Bill.
Conference therefore calls for:
1. The annual release of Government Transparency Reports which publish,
as a minimum, the annual number of user data requests made by law
enforcement, the intelligence agencies, and other authorities, broken
down by requesting authority, success rates, types of data requested
and category of crime or event being investigated.
2. The establishment of a commission of experts to review state
surveillance and all recent allegations from the Edward Snowden leaks,
with specific scope to:
a) Scrutinise relevant legislation including the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Intelligence Services Act 1994
and section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984.
b) Assess the implications for privacy and internet freedoms of Project
Tempora and other programmes revealed by the Snowden leaks,
and consider alternatives to the bulk collection of data.
c) Review powers, scope, appointment and resources of oversight
committees, commissioners and tribunals.
d) Consider the use of judicial involvement and approval for
surveillance and for access to communications data and metadata
likely to reveal sensitive personal data.
e) Publish its findings and recommendations.
3. The Government to define and enshrine the digital rights of the citizen to
protect from overreach by the state, through:
a) Ensuring that powers of surveillance, accessing data, and
accessing new technologies are not extended without
b) Ensuring that government does not undertake the bulk collection of
data and only accesses the metadata or content of
communications of an individual if there is suspicion of involvement
in unlawful activity.
c) Ensuring that oversight of government surveillance is independent,
informed, transparent and adequate.
d) Supporting a prompt, lawful and transparent framework for data
requests across jurisdictions and between governments.
4. The Government to accelerate and expand the midata project, to grant
citizens access to all their data in an open digital format, regardless of
which business holds that data, by using powers under the Enterprise
and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.